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In this equitable contribution action brought by Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (collectively, Nationwide) against Erie Insurance Exchange the Supreme Court vacated the final judgment of the circuit court granting Erie's demurrer and dismissing Nationwide's claim for equitable contribution, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law. In Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 293 Va. 331 (Nationwide I), the Supreme Court resolved an insurance coverage dispute between Nationwide and Erie. Thereafter, Nationwide brought this action seeking reimbursement for Erie's share of a monetary settlement that Nationwide had paid to a tort claimant while the case was on appeal. The circuit court sustained Erie's demurrer to the claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court should have denied Erie's demurrer to the claim of equitable contribution based upon the coverage allocation that the Court had determined in Nationwide I. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court to enter an order awarding contribution to Nationwide consistent with the Court's allocation of coverage liability in Nationwide I and with the views expressed in this opinion. View "Nationwide Mut. Fire Insurance Co. v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing trespass and nuisance claims as time-barred and construing the provisions of express easements, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' plea in bar as to Plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims based on the statute of limitations and erred in construing some provisions of express easements. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, her neighbors, alleging that Defendants installed an underground sprinkler system that caused damaging encroachments of water to her property and that Defendants violated her rights under two express easements. The circuit court held that the trespass and nuisance claims were barred by the five-year statute limitations and construed the easements, entering an order in accordance with its rulings. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court erroneously granted Defendants' plea in bar on the basis of improper factual findings; (2) the circuit court erred by construing some terms in the express easements but did not err by construing others; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff's petition for a rule to show cause. View "Robinson v. Nordquist" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court upholding Augusta County's tax assessments against McKee Foods Corporation for the years 2011 through 2014 and remanded the matter for a new trial, holding that the assessments were not entitled to a presumption of validity. McKee filed an application for relief from erroneous assessment for real property taxes, alleging that the assessments were above the property's fair market value, were not uniform in application, and were otherwise invalid or illegal. After a trial, the circuit court upheld the assessments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the appraiser did not properly use any of the three generally accepted approaches to valuation the Supreme Court erred in applying the presumption of validity to his 2011 assessment; (2) the 2012 and 2013 assessments were based on the same improper methodology and were not entitled to the presumption of correctness; and (3) the 2014 assessment was not entitled to a presumption of validity because it was based on a single approach to the determination of market value. View "McKee Foods Corp. v. County of Augusta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Workers' Compensation Commission that Carnell Carrington was not entitled to temporary benefits for a total disability caused by kidney failure unrelated to his employment, holding that the court of appeals did not err. At the time he began working for his employer in 1992, Carrington had a preexisting kidney job. In 2006, Carrignton received a kidney transplant but returned to work without restrictions. In 2014, Carrington's kidney condition deteriorated severely, rendering him totally disabled from performing any work. The Commission concluded that Carrington was not entitled to continuing temporary total-disability benefits because neither his preexisting kidney disease nor his kidney failure had any connection to his employment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two-causes rule articulated in Bergmann v. L & W Drywall, 222 Va. 30 (1981), did not apply to the facts of this case. View "Carrington v. Aquatic Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's convictions for grand larceny, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and providing false identification to a law enforcement officer, holding that Defendant's right to a speedy trial was not violated. In this case, Defendant had been continuously incarcerated since a March 2, 2016 preliminary hearing. For purposes of speedy trial, Defendant's trial should have commenced within five months of the preliminary hearing date. Defendant was not tried until November 14, 2016. The court of appeals found that that the trial court's continuance from August 2016 until November 2016 was a court-ordered continuance that was not counted against the Commonwealth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant's failure to make an affirmative objection to the trial court's continuation of the case was dispositive and that Defendant's speedy trial rights were not violated. View "Young v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the ruling of the trial court finding Defendant in violation of the terms of his suspended sentences, holding that, assuming a proffer of evidence made at Defendant's probation revocation hearing was in error, any error was harmless on the facts of this case. According to the prosecutor in this case, the proffer of evidence quoted testimony from a newspaper article that detailed testimony from a victim of Defendant's crimes. The article, however, was never admitted into evidence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the proffer violated his due process rights. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision overruling Defendant's objection to the proffer, holding that the proffer did not violate Defendant's due process rights because the newspaper article from which the prosecutor quoted was not testimonial hearsay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any alleged error in allowing the prosecutor to read from the newspaper article was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Mooney v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment denying Defendant's motion to set aside the jury's verdict for Plaintiff on this defamation complaint against Defendant, holding that the trial judge erred by failing to dismiss this case on Defendant's first and second motions to strike and by failing to set aside the jury's erroneous verdict. Defendant, a superintendent for Patrick County Public Schools, removed Plaintiff as principal of an elementary school in Patrick County and provided her with a letter stating that she would be reassigned to a teaching position. After the letter came into the possession of the local news media Plaintiff filed this action alleging that a statement in the letter was defamatory. Defendant twice moved to strike Plaintiff's evidence, arguing that the statement either was opinion, was true, or lacked defamatory sting. The circuit court denied the motions. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff. Defendant moved to set aside the verdict on the same grounds as his motions to strike. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial judge consciously disregarded the law and permitted the jury to return a verdict and award damages on a statement that he knew was not actionable as defamation as a matter of law. View "Sroufe v. Waldron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court held that Respondents, who were both previously adjudicated to be sexually violent predators and were committed to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services after a trial court determined that they had violated the terms of their conditional release, were not entitled to a State-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing. Respondents filed motions asking for a court-appointed psychological expert to assist them in a hearing to determine whether they violated the conditions of their release and whether those violations rendered them unsuitable for conditional release. Specifically, Respondents argued that, because they were indigent, the Due Process Clause required the appointment of an expert. The circuit courts denied the motions and determined that Respondents violated the conditions of their release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that given the temporary, expedited nature of the hearing and the other protections afforded Respondents, including the right to counsel, the Due Process Clause did not require the State to appoint an expert. View "Harvey v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant's erroneous sentences were void ab initio, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later filed a motion to vacate three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that those sentences were void ab initio for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences and reopened the relevant criminal cases for further proceedings. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that sentences below the statutory minimum are not void ab initio but only voidable, and that, pursuant to Rule 1:1, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. View "Commonwealth v. Watson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant lacked standing to move to vacate the sentences of other felons as void ab initio, holding that Defendant lacked standing and that there was no reason to set aside the circuit court's judgment sua sponte. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later moved to vacate as void thirty sentences imposed by the court upon twelve felons for violations of Va. Code 18.2-53.1, including three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that each of the challenged sentences was void ab initial for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court dismissed the case, ruling that a person must establish standing even when challenging a judgment as void ab initio. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly ruled that Defendant lacked standing to challenge the other felons' sentences; and (2) this Court declines to declare the other felons' sentences void sua sponte. View "Watson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law